What a year 2019 was in New England sports! As we move into the New Year, join NESN.com in looking ahead to the top five storylines for 2020.
There’s a possibility, even if you believe it’s slim, that Tom Brady’s last home game at Gillette Stadium will be played Saturday night.
For the first time in his career, Brady’s future with the New England Patriots is uncertain. Brady is in a contract year. His deal will void at the end of the 2019 NFL year, making him a free agent.
So, there are three possibilities: Brady could return to the Patriots, retire or move on to another team. Two of those three possibilities involve another quarterback starting for the Patriots next season, which is pretty crazy in itself.
Brady seemingly is keeping all possibilities open. His house is on the market, and he reportedly bought a new one in Connecticut. He also stepped down as a co-chair of the local Best Buddies chapter.
Some are looking at those two situations as proof that Brady is ready to move on from New England and the Patriots. It seems more like Brady is keeping his options open.
Why would Brady own a house in Newton, Mass., if he’s playing for, say, the Los Angeles Chargers next season? The Best Buddies Challenge takes place on Cape Cod during organized team activities and minicamp. Brady’s not flying across the country for the charity if he’s playing with a new team.
These are the necessary evils of playing on the final year of a contract with the future completely uncertain. Brady has to plan ahead regardless of what’s coming in March. And Brady’s relative struggles this season are more reason to question whether he’d want to stick around.
Brady had his worst statistical season since 2013, and it’s no real surprise that his numbers dropped without tight end Rob Gronkowski or any comparable replacement.
At the same time, at least Brady knows he would have Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, N’Keal Harry, Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead on the Patriots next season. If he goes elsewhere — let’s use the Chargers as another example — he’d be starting fresh with an entirely new set of weapons and possibly a new offensive coordinator and system. Sure, it might sound great to play with Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, but who’s to say Brady will develop immediate chemistry with them? Who’s to say they’ll fall into Brady’s trust tree?
And it’s not as if the Patriots didn’t try to get Brady weapons in 2019. They signed Antonio Brown. They brought in Demaryius Thomas. They drafted a wide receiver in the first round and then traded a second-round pick for another. Brown screwed up after one week with the team, and Harry and Sanu never quite caught on as expected. There’s no reason to believe the Patriots won’t try to make more splash additions this offseason. And even if they don’t, Edelman, Sanu and Harry is a pretty decent receiving corps.
It’s entirely possible Brady returns to the Patriots in 2020. But the fact we don’t know is notable.